Tuesday, 24 February 2015


The celebratory poster signalling the return of STAR WARS to the big screen!

Twenty years ago this year, after prior meetings between them two years earlier, serious work would be initiated by George Lucas and 20th Century Fox to restore the original Classic Trilogy of STAR WARS in time for its then milestone Twentieth Anniversary cinematic re-release, a scenario that would also act as an important primer for the then upcoming new Prequels films which Lucas had begun writing and preparing from the end of 1994. To say the remastering job would be immense would be an understatement. Apparently, the deterioration of the negatives, especially for the original first film, was in a far worse state than originally thought, resulting in huge cleaning and restoration work needing to be done, and several of the best original Technicolor release prints having to be utilised for selected sequences (including one copy in the collection of producer Gary Kurtz). Additionally, viewing several scenes from the original movie that he'd never been happy with back in the day due to time pressures, lack of resources and technology, Lucas decided to replace or "repair" certain scenes with all-new CGI effects shots- another tester for the ground-breakers of ILM after the success of JURASSIC PARK and an indication of what could be done for the future with the Prequels. Additionally, previously deleted scenes would be added where desired, alongside other specially shot new sequences at ILM. Finally, the trilogy would receive a brand new sound mix from the series dedicated long-term sound designer, Ben Burtt, who hadn't really been allowed to go near the original mix (apart from being a consultant), handled by veteran Sam Shaw, back in 1977.

▶ "Star Wars Trilogy (1997)" Special Edition Trailer - YouTube
▶ Star Wars special edition 1997 making of (part 1 of 3) - YouTube
▶ The Empire Strikes Back special edition 1997 making of (part 2 of 3) - YouTube
▶ The Return of the Jedi special edition 1997 making of (part 3 of 3) - YouTube
▶ Sci-Fi Channel Special -- "The Force Returns -- Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition" (1997), [RAW]* - YouTube
▶ Star Wars MTV Movie Special 1997 part 1 of 3 - YouTube
▶ Star Wars IV Special Edition Comparison Death Star Battle - YouTube
Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope (Comparison: Special Edition - DVD Edition) -
▶ Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition DVD Trailer - YouTube
▶ Conan O'Brien 'Mark Hamill 3/18/97 - YouTube

Publicity material for the soon to follow VHS releases.

Arriving like a juggernaut at just the right time and place in the worlds of entertainment and sci-fi from January 1997, the STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITIONS, released in a serialised every couple of weeks way, would have fans young (many of whom had never seen the films in a cinema) and old re-hooked on their favourite heroes and villains, of which additional publicity and exposure would be generated via a huge promotional tie-in with BURGER KING and COCA-COLA, with profits/funding to LUCASFILM going towards the costs of bringing EPISODE I to life. At the time in 1997, the majority of audiences enjoyed the fact that STAR WARS, whether it was upgraded or not, was back, and that they could finally see it the way it was meant to be experienced- as part of a cathartic response within movie theatres. At that time, he new scenes and enhanced sound were also welcomed and considered a part of that enjoyment process. But such celebrations weren't to last- as the following three years progressed die-hard fans enjoyment and willingness to accept the SPECIAL EDITIONS was tainted with the news that Lucas preferred these new versions over the original movies and didn't want the latter released on DVD or Blu-ray (though a non anamorphic 1995 laserdisc master set would eventually materialise on DVD around 2006- designed to generate needed profits for LUCASFILM). With the DISNEY takeover of 2012, and the impending release of EPISODE VII, fans will hopefully get their dreams of an anamorphic, unaltered STAR WARS Classic Trilogy release on Blu-ray made reality, but let's not dismiss those original 1997 SPECIAL EDITIONS- there were some genuine improvements here and there, and they had far less creatively divisive changes made to them than what would later be seen by the further "upgrades" by 2004 and 2011. Nor should we forget the genuine and heartfelt impact the returned Trilogy brought in, affectionately reawakening the franchise for good with worldwide audiences...

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